The debate over who has the best foreign policy judgment continued Tuesday, with Barack Obama taking punches from Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Edwards and Chris Dodd.
But Obama, playing an unfamiliar defense game with home field advantage on a Soldier Field stage, kept returning to two central campaign themes to inoculate himself against criticism: blaming Washington insiders and stressing his early objection to the Iraq war. Edwards also raged against the establishment and gave Obama a run for the anti-Washington crown.
Nothing very subtle in this 96-minute exchange moderated by MSNBC's Keith Olbermann.
Clinton hit Obama in the belly over Obama getting trapped recently in answering a hypothetical question about a nuclear attack on Pakistan and announcing that he would, if there were actionable intelligence, send a U.S. strike force into Pakistan to root out terrorists.
"I do not believe people running for president should engage in hypotheticals," she said. Without naming Obama, she said it was a "very big mistake" to "telegraph" his Pakistan move and "destabilize the Musharraf regime which is fighting for its life."
Clinton earned boos for saying what was on her mind about Obama. "You can think big, but remember you shouldn't always say everything you think if you're running for president, because it has consequences across the world.''
But she was warmly received as Girlfriend Clinton standing up against six men. After taking incoming from Obama and Edwards, Clinton slipped into a serene state. Asked to respond to the attacks, she said calmly, "I'm just taking it all in" while urging Democrats not to fight each other. Referring to her years wrangling the "vast right-wing conspiracy," Clinton said, "So if you want a winner who knows how to take them on, I'm your girl.''
And, at a time Obama is trying to establish himself as a foreign policy heavy, he misspoke when he called the leader of Canada a "president." Canada's leader is a prime minister.